Measure systems, not people: Improving the productivity, predictability, and responsiveness of your product development organization

Event type:Master Class
Live Virtual

Event Details

- 13:30
Wed, September 15 2021

According to one study, the software development industry has a $3 trillion productivity problem. The pace of change is accelerating, business and technology complexity is growing, and organizations are struggling to keep pace. Value is not flowing as it should.

One reason for this is that software development organizations operate in an environment of ever-increasing conditions of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. Our product development organizations are themselves complex systems with many diverse parts and interactions. From a systems perspective, agility is an outcome of the interactions, activities, and decisions that take place in our systems. Our organization’s agility is an ever-evolving point on a dynamic continuum.

Given this complexity, how do we influence how agile our systems are? One way is to think about our organizations in terms of their productivity, predictability, and responsiveness. However, these are difficult to measure directly, and reliable data often comes too late to be actionable.


So, what can we measure?

In this session, we will use case studies and examples from product development organizations to discuss:

  • Why today’s highest performing software organizations optimize for throughput and stability, and what that means
  • How a systems perspective on software development organizations helps us frame the outcomes we want to see
  • Two simple measures to guide our understanding of our organizations’ productivity, predictability, and responsiveness
  • How these two simple measures inform our actions and decisions, whatever our role in our organization
  • Reasons why these measures apply to the organization as a whole and why we should not use them to measure people
  • The (sometimes surprising) factors that affect our organizations’ productivity, predictability, and responsiveness
  • The aspects of our organization’s cultures that determine how easy or difficult it can be to achieve the outcomes we want to see
  • Specific recommendations for improving productivity, responsiveness, and predictability of our organizations, no matter what product development process or method you are using


Following Ken’s talk, Vince Boyle from Fidelity Investments will demonstrate how they are implementing flow metrics in their organisation.


About Ken Power


Ken is a Software Engineering and AI technical leader, consultant, and researcher with 20+ years of experience developing software systems and growing agile teams in companies from startup to Fortune 50. He has been working with agile and lean approaches to product development since 1999 in multiple industry segments, including automotive, travel & transportation, networking & communications, and fintech. His current focus is consulting on technical and product leadership and software engineering for self-driving cars and autonomous systems.

Ken has over 35 peer-reviewed publications in software engineering and was editor for IEEE Software’s special issue on Large-Scale Agile Development. He is a regular speaker at leading international conferences on these topics. In addition to product development and consulting, Ken teaches strategy & planning and system design in NUI, Galway, and is a researcher with Lero, the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre for Software. He has a Ph.D. in Information Systems, an MSc in Artificial Intelligence, and a BEng in Software Engineering.



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